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Saturday, March 27, 1999 Published at 06:14 GMT


Baby from dead husband's sperm

A sperm sample was taken from Bruce Vernoff 30 hours after he died

A woman in the United States has given birth after conceiving from sperm taken from her dead husband.

It is the first known birth of its kind in the US.

Gaby Vernoff had the baby on 17 March at a Los Angeles hospital.

Mrs Vernoff was impregnated in July with sperm that been taken from her husband, Bruce, 30 hours after he had died of an allergic reaction.

Acting at the widow's request, fertility specialist Dr Cappy Rothman performed the operation and the sperm was kept frozen for 15 months before Mrs Vernoff became pregnant.

At least 45 cases

"I just did it because the family was in so much stress and so much grief," said Dr Rothman, director of the Center for Reproductive Medicine at Century City Hospital.

Dr Rothman has performed or supervised postmortem sperm extractions about a dozen times since 1978, when he took sperm from a man killed by a car.

[ image: Diane Blood with baby son Liam]
Diane Blood with baby son Liam
Arthur Caplan, director of the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, said he knows of at least 45 cases across the US in which someone had requested that sperm be taken from a dead man. But he and Dr Rothman said this is the first publicly acknowledged case in the United States in which a birth resulted.

Dr Alan DeCherney, chairman of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of California, Los Angeles, said there is at least one international precedent: A woman in France gave birth after a conception with postmortem sperm two years ago.

It is not unusual for a man to have his sperm frozen if he knows he is ill or dying.

British woman Diane Blood, who fought a legal battle for permission to use her dead husband's sperm, became pregnant using sperm that had been taken from her comatose, terminally ill husband.

Dr Rothman said Mr Vernoff was in the refrigerated morgue and the 30-hour interval is the longest known period for removing sperm.

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